Support Standardizing Marijuana Offenses in the Penal Law
Dear [Decision Maker],
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo announced his support for ending the racially biased and unconstitutional arrests that result from inconsistent state law for marijuana possession. Governor Cuomo was joined by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and District Attorneys from throughout New York -- everyone now agrees that change is needed.
As concerned New Yorkers, we urge you to support legislation, A.10581, that makes uniform penalties for simple marijuana possession in the Penal Law. This proposal, introduced by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D Brooklyn) at the request of Governor Cuomo, would standardize marijuana offenses in New York and reduce needless and racially-biased criminalization. The current law was originally passed in 1977 and makes possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York a non-criminal violation. But too often the police bypass the violation and instead falsely charge people with possessing or burning marijuana in public view, which is -- a criminal offense. Most of these arrests are an outcome of controversial and unlawful NYPD practices like stop-and-frisk and quotas. Arrests have only increased over the last 20 years: in 2011, more than 55,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in our state, making it the highest number of marijuana arrests ever recorded in New York State history. These arrests are racially biased and target young people. Nearly 85% of all those arrested are Black and Latino -- even though government studies consistently show that whites use marijuana at higher rates. And almost 70% of those arrested are 16-29 years old. These arrests create a criminal record that can stay with someone for the rest of their life, severely limiting their opportunities. These arrests are also astoundingly expensive and wasteful. In 2011 alone, marijuana possession arrests in New York State cost taxpayers nearly $100 million and over $600 million over the last decade. With budgets tightening everywhere, this money would be better spent on many other important priorities for New Yorkers, like education, housing, and creating jobs. We need a permanent, statewide solution in the Penal Law to reduce unlawful and racially disparate arrests. This legislation proposed by the Governor and supported by law enforcement, treatment providers, and community groups throughout the state, would accomplish just that. And we urge you to join them by support this important reform. Let's support fairness, equity and fiscal responsibility in New York by passing A.10581. Let's end these fiscally wasteful, racially disparate, and unconstitutional arrests once and for all.
[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]